Coronavirus: Sanford Health prepares for new strain

Shawn Neisteadt
Sanford Health Media Relations
605-366-2432 /

SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Jan. 22, 2020 — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends caution when working with patients who may be infected with the novel coronavirus. Sanford Health continues to monitor and follow CDC guidelines for responding to COVID-19.

“If a sick patient came to one of our clinics, we would hope that they would call ahead and say what symptoms they have and what they’re concerned about,” said Dr. Susan Hoover, medical director for infection control for the Sanford Health Sioux Falls region.

Patients with symptoms of a respiratory virus will be instructed to wear a mask in all Sanford Health locations. Patients who have traveled to mainland China will put on a mask and be escorted to a private room. Sanford Health staff working with them will wear gowns, gloves, goggles or face shield, and a mask.

“Sanford Health routinely has all of that equipment available in the case of patients who may have contagious illnesses,” Dr. Hoover said. “We need to be prepared all the time. New viruses, new respiratory illnesses could come up at any time. And we are prepared at this time of year in particular for influenza. And so that takes us a long way down the road toward being aware of people who have fever and respiratory symptoms.”

This news story will continue to develop but Dr. Hoover cautions against overreacting.

“The chance of getting things like influenza or the other types of coronaviruses that we’ve had in the United States for a long time is probably much higher than this new infection,” she said. “If you are sick, it’s always good to stay home, to protect yourself and to protect your kids.”

Feb. 19 update:

Cases confirmed in the U.S.

The deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has infected more than 73,000 people around the world with the majority of cases in mainland China.

China is still listed as a Level 4 country for United States citizens, meaning no travel is advised.

On Feb. 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the 15th case of COVID-19 in the United States.

Dr. Susan Hoover, medical director for infection control for the Sanford Health Sioux Falls region, says hand-washing and other precautions will go a long way toward keeping you healthy.

Watch video: Refresh your memory on proper hand-washing

“Really these respiratory infections can be found anywhere in the world. So you want to have the proper travel preparation for your destination,” she said.

Specifically, she cautions that updated immunizations, including the flu shot, are important. A travel clinic can help you determine which immunizations you need and what preventive medications to carry in your luggage.

What is a travel clinic? Find a Sanford Health travel clinic near you

Avoiding coronavirus

Prevention is all about reducing your exposure to the virus. Proper hygiene is critical, including:

“Coronavirus is a family of viruses. There are several of them that cause illness in human beings,” Dr. Hoover said. “There are some that we see here in the United States and in most adults it would generally cause what we call a cold and upper respiratory infection. This is a new kind of coronavirus that seems to have emerged just recently in the human population. People are actively studying it right now to learn more about its behavior and the spectrum of illness that it can cause.”

According to the World Health Organization, the worst cases for COVID-19 develop pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. In China, at least 1,772 people are dead and nearly 70,635 are sick with the virus. Outside of China, 804 cases have been confirmed, and three people are dead.

Illnesses have been reported in 25 countries. The WHO declared on Jan. 30 that the spread of this virus is a public health emergency of international concern.

March 2 update:

First people to die of novel coronavirus in U.S.

The first deaths due to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. have been confirmed in Washington state. Of the 18 people infected to date in the state of Washington, six have died, according to state public health officials.

The virus is now considered community-spread, from person-to-person contact, in these cases as well as some cases in other states, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 88,000 people and killed 3,043, according to the World Health Organization.

A man in his 50s died Friday, while a man in his 70s who was a resident at a long-term care facility died Saturday, The Associated Press reported. A health care worker at the same facility also is presumed positive for COVID-19, the CDC said.

Read more: CDC situation summary

On Feb. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration widened the availability of testing by allowing certain labs to more quickly use tests they develop to diagnose COVID-19.

And March 1, Vice President Mike Pence said more than 15,000 testing kits went out over the weekend. The government is also working with a commercial provider to get another 50,000 kits ready, he added.

Dr. Susan Hoover, medical director for infection control for the Sanford Health Sioux Falls region, said Sanford Health is prepared to take precautions with patients.

“Sanford Health puts the safety of our patients, staff and visitors first. All patients are being screened for recent travel history and symptoms. If that screening indicates the potential for novel coronavirus, the patient is isolated and staff members take the appropriate precautions,” Dr. Hoover said. “Sanford will then offer appropriate care for the patient while notifying the proper agencies, as identified by the CDC.”

By the numbers:

Contributing: Shawn Neisteadt, Katie Foutz, Courtney Collen, Jane Thaden Lawson, Keeley Meier, Michelle Erpenbach and Lonnie Nichols.

Other well-known types of coronavirus

Learn more

About Sanford Health

Sanford Health, one of the largest health systems in the United States, is dedicated to the integrated delivery of health care, genomic medicine, senior care and services, global clinics, research and affordable insurance. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the organization includes 44 hospitals, 1,400 physicians and more than 200 Good Samaritan Society senior care locations in 26 states and nine countries. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have transformed how Sanford Health improves the human condition.